Adolf Hitler publishes Mein Kampf.
Dust jacket of 1926–1928 edition
|18 July 1925|
Published in English
|13 October 1933 (abridged)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|ISBN||978-0395951057 (1998) trans. by Ralph Manheim|
|Followed by||Zweites Buch|
|Part of a series on|
|Part of a series on|
Mein Kampf (German: [maɪn ˈkampf]; My Struggle or My Fight) is a 1925 autobiographical manifesto by Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler. The work describes the process by which Hitler became antisemitic and outlines his political ideology and future plans for Germany. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926. The book was edited firstly by Emil Maurice, then by Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess.
Hitler began Mein Kampf while imprisoned for what he considered to be "political crimes" following his failed Putsch in Munich in November 1923. Although he received many visitors initially, he soon devoted himself entirely to the book. As he continued, he realized that it would have to be a two-volume work, with the first volume scheduled for release in early 1925. The governor of Landsberg noted at the time that "he [Hitler] hopes the book will run into many editions, thus enabling him to fulfill his financial obligations and to defray the expenses incurred at the time of his trial." After slow initial sales, the book became a bestseller in Germany following Hitler's rise to power in 1933.
After Hitler's death, copyright of Mein Kampf passed to the state government of Bavaria, which refused to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany. In 2016, following the expiration of the copyright held by the Bavarian state government, Mein Kampf was republished in Germany for the first time since 1945, which prompted public debate and divided reactions from Jewish groups.
Hitler originally wanted to call his forthcoming book Viereinhalb Jahre (des Kampfes) gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit, or Four and a Half Years (of Struggle) Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice. Max Amann, head of the Franz Eher Verlag and Hitler's publisher, is said to have suggested the much shorter "Mein Kampf" or "My Struggle".
The arrangement of chapters is as follows:
- Volume One: A Reckoning
- Chapter 1: In the House of My Parents
- Chapter 2: Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna
- Chapter 3: General Political Considerations Based on My Vienna Period
- Chapter 4: Munich
- Chapter 5: The World War
- Chapter 6: War Propaganda
- Chapter 7: The Revolution
- Chapter 8: The Beginning of My Political Activity
- Chapter 9: The "German Workers' Party"
- Chapter 10: Causes of the Collapse
- Chapter 11: Nation and Race
- Chapter 12: The First Period of Development of the National Socialist German Workers' Party
- Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement
- Chapter 1: Philosophy and Party
- Chapter 2: The State
- Chapter 3: Subjects and Citizens
- Chapter 4: Personality and the Conception of the Völkisch State
- Chapter 5: Philosophy and Organization
- Chapter 6: The Struggle of the Early Period – the Significance of the Spoken Word
- Chapter 7: The Struggle with the Red Front
- Chapter 8: The Strong Man Is Mightiest Alone
- Chapter 9: Basic Ideas Regarding the Meaning and Organization of the Sturmabteilung
- Chapter 10: Federalism as a Mask
- Chapter 11: Propaganda and Organization
- Chapter 12: The Trade-Union Question
- Chapter 13: German Alliance Policy After the War
- Chapter 14: Eastern Orientation or Eastern Policy
- Chapter 15: The Right of Emergency Defense
In Mein Kampf, Hitler used the main thesis of "the Jewish peril", which posits a Jewish conspiracy to gain world leadership. The narrative describes the process by which he became increasingly antisemitic and militaristic, especially during his years in Vienna. He speaks of not having met a Jew until he arrived in Vienna, and that at first his attitude was liberal and tolerant. When he first encountered the antisemitic press, he says, he dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration. Later he accepted the same antisemitic views, which became crucial to his program of national reconstruction of Germany.
In the book Hitler blamed Germany's chief woes on the parliament of the Weimar Republic, the Jews, and Social Democrats, as well as Marxists, though he believed that Marxists, Social Democrats, and the parliament were all working for Jewish interests. He announced that he wanted to completely destroy the parliamentary system, believing it to be corrupt in principle, as those who reach power are inherent opportunists.
While historians dispute the exact date Hitler decided to exterminate the Jewish people, few place the decision before the mid-1930s. First published in 1925, Mein Kampf shows Hitler's personal grievances and his ambitions for creating a New Order. Hitler also wrote that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which unmasked the nature and agenda of the Jewish people with their ultimate goals, is an authentic document, which later became a part of the Nazi propaganda effort to justify persecution and annihilation of the Jews.
The historian Ian Kershaw points out that several passages in Mein Kampf are undeniably of a genocidal nature. Hitler wrote "the nationalization of our masses will succeed only when, aside from all the positive struggle for the soul of our people, their international poisoners are exterminated", and he suggested that, "If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the nation had been subjected to poison gas, such as had to be endured in the field by hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers of all classes and professions, then the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain."
The racial laws to which Hitler referred resonate directly with his ideas in Mein Kampf. In the first edition, Hitler stated that the destruction of the weak and sick is far more humane than their protection. Apart from this allusion to humane treatment, Hitler saw a purpose in destroying "the weak" in order to provide the proper space and purity for the "strong".
Lebensraum ("living space")
In the chapter "Eastern Orientation or Eastern Policy", Hitler argued that the Germans needed Lebensraum in the East, a "historic destiny" that would properly nurture the German people. Hitler believed that "the organization of a Russian state formation was not the result of the political abilities of the Slavs in Russia, but only a wonderful example of the state-forming efficacy of the German element in an inferior race."
In Mein Kampf Hitler openly stated the future German expansion in the East, foreshadowing Generalplan Ost:
And so we National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. We take up where we broke off six hundred years ago. We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze toward the land in the east. At long last we break off the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-War period and shift to the soil policy of the future. If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states.
Although Hitler originally wrote Mein Kampf mostly for the followers of National Socialism, it grew in popularity after he rose to power. (Two other books written by party members, Gottfried Feder's Breaking The Interest Slavery and Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century, have since lapsed into comparative literary obscurity.) Hitler had made about 1.2 million Reichsmarks from the income of the book by 1933 (equivalent to €4,714,299 in 2009), when the average annual income of a teacher was about 4,800 Marks (equivalent to €18,857 in 2009). He accumulated a tax debt of 405,500 Reichsmark (very roughly in 2015 1.1 million GBP, 1.4 million EUR, 1.5 million USD) from the sale of about 240,000 copies before he became chancellor in 1933 (at which time his debt was waived).
Hitler began to distance himself from the book after becoming chancellor of Germany in 1933. He dismissed it as "fantasies behind bars" that were little more than a series of articles for the Völkischer Beobachter, and later told Hans Frank that "If I had had any idea in 1924 that I would have become Reich chancellor, I never would have written the book." Nevertheless, Mein Kampf was a bestseller in Germany during the 1930s. During Hitler's years in power, the book was in high demand in libraries and often reviewed and quoted in other publications. It was given free to every newlywed couple and every soldier fighting at the front. By 1939 it had sold 5.2 million copies in eleven languages. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies of the book had been sold or distributed in Germany.
Mein Kampf, in essence, lays out the ideological program Hitler established for the German revolution, by identifying the Jews and "Bolsheviks" as racially and ideologically inferior and threatening, and "Aryans" and National Socialists as racially superior and politically progressive. Hitler's revolutionary goals included expulsion of the Jews from Greater Germany and the unification of German peoples into one Greater Germany. Hitler desired to restore German lands to their greatest historical extent, real or imagined.
Due to its racist content and the historical effect of Nazism upon Europe during World War II and the Holocaust, it is considered a highly controversial book. Criticism has not come solely from opponents of Nazism. Italian Fascist dictator and Nazi ally Benito Mussolini was also critical of the book, saying that it was "a boring tome that I have never been able to read" and remarking that Hitler's beliefs, as expressed in the book, were "little more than commonplace clichés".
The German journalist Konrad Heiden, an early critic of the Nazi Party, observed that the content of Mein Kampf is essentially a political argument with other members of the Nazi Party who had appeared to be Hitler's friends, but whom he was actually denouncing in the book's content – sometimes by not even including references to them.
The American literary theorist and philosopher Kenneth Burke wrote a 1939 rhetorical analysis of the work, The Rhetoric of Hitler's "Battle", which revealed an underlying message of aggressive intent.
The American journalist John Gunther said in 1940 that compared to the autobiographies such as Leon Trotsky's My Life or Henry Adams's The Education of Henry Adams, Mein Kampf was "vapid, vain, rhetorical, diffuse, prolix." However, he added that "it is a powerful and moving book, the product of great passionate feeling". He suggested that the book exhausted curious German readers, but its "ceaseless repetition of the argument, left impregnably in their minds, fecund and germinating".
In March 1940, British writer George Orwell reviewed a then-recently published uncensored translation of Mein Kampf for The New English Weekly. Orwell suggested that the force of Hitler's personality shone through the often "clumsy" writing, capturing the magnetic allure of Hitler for many Germans. In essence, Orwell notes, Hitler offers only visions of endless struggle and conflict in the creation of "a horrible brainless empire" that "stretch[es] to Afghanistan or thereabouts". He wrote, "Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people 'I offer you a good time,' Hitler has said to them, 'I offer you struggle, danger, and death,' and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet." Orwell's review was written in the aftermath of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, when Hitler made peace with USSR after more than a decade of vitriolic rhetoric and threats between the two nations; with the pact in place, Orwell believed, England was now facing a risk of Nazi attack and the UK must not underestimate the appeal of Hitler's ideas.
In his 1943 book The Menace of the Herd, Austrian scholar Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn described Hitler's ideas in Mein Kampf and elsewhere as "a veritable reductio ad absurdum of 'progressive' thought" and betraying "a curious lack of original thought" that shows Hitler offered no innovative or original ideas but was merely "a virtuoso of commonplaces which he may or may not repeat in the guise of a 'new discovery.'" Hitler's stated aim, Kuehnelt-Leddihn writes, is to quash individualism in furtherance of political goals:
When Hitler and Mussolini attack the "western democracies" they insinuate that their "democracy" is not genuine. National Socialism envisages abolishing the difference in wealth, education, intellect, taste, philosophy, and habits by a leveling process which necessitates in turn a total control over the child and the adolescent. Every personal attitude will be branded—after communist pattern—as "bourgeois," and this in spite of the fact that the bourgeois is the representative of the most herdist class in the world, and that National Socialism is a basically bourgeois movement. Hitler in Mein Kampf repeatedly speaks of the "masses" and the "herd" referring to the people. The German people should probably, in his view, remain a mass of identical "individuals" in an enormous sand heap or ant heap, identical even to the color of their shirts, the garment nearest to the body.
In his The Second World War, published in several volumes in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Winston Churchill wrote that he felt that after Hitler's ascension to power, no other book than Mein Kampf deserved more intensive scrutiny.
The critic George Steiner has suggested that Mein Kampf can be seen as one of several books that resulted from the crisis of German culture following Germany's defeat in World War I, comparable in this respect to the philosopher Ernst Bloch's (1918), the historian Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West (1918), the theologian Franz Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption (1921), the theologian Karl Barth's The Epistle to the Romans (1922), and the philosopher Martin Heidegger's Being and Time (1927).
German publication history
While Hitler was in power (1933–1945), Mein Kampf came to be available in three common editions. The first, the Volksausgabe or People's Edition, featured the original cover on the dust jacket and was navy blue underneath with a gold swastika eagle embossed on the cover. The Hochzeitsausgabe, or Wedding Edition, in a slipcase with the seal of the province embossed in gold onto a parchment-like cover was given free to marrying couples. In 1940, the Tornister-Ausgabe, or Knapsack Edition, was released. This edition was a compact, but unabridged, version in a red cover and was released by the post office, available to be sent to loved ones fighting at the front. These three editions combined both volumes into the same book.
A special edition was published in 1939 in honour of Hitler's 50th birthday. This edition was known as the Jubiläumsausgabe, or Anniversary Issue. It came in both dark blue and bright red boards with a gold sword on the cover. This work contained both volumes one and two. It was considered a deluxe version, relative to the smaller and more common Volksausgabe.
The book could also be purchased as a two-volume set during Hitler's rule, and was available in soft cover and hardcover. The soft cover edition contained the original cover (as pictured at the top of this article). The hardcover edition had a leather spine with cloth-covered boards. The cover and spine contained an image of three brown oak leaves.
At the time of his suicide, Hitler's official place of residence was in Munich, which led to his entire estate, including all rights to Mein Kampf, changing to the ownership of the state of Bavaria. The government of Bavaria, in agreement with the federal government of Germany, refused to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany. It also opposed copying and printing in other countries, but with less success. As per German copyright law, the entire text entered the public domain on 1 January 2016, 70 years after the author's death.
Owning and buying the book in Germany is not an offence. Trading in old copies is lawful as well, unless it is done in such a fashion as to "promote hatred or war." In particular, the unmodified edition is not covered by §86 StGB that forbids dissemination of means of propaganda of unconstitutional organizations, since it is a "pre-constitutional work" and as such cannot be opposed to the free and democratic basic order, according to a 1979 decision of the Federal Court of Justice of Germany. Most German libraries carry heavily commented and excerpted versions of Mein Kampf. In 2008, Stephan Kramer, secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, not only recommended lifting the ban, but volunteered the help of his organization in editing and annotating the text, saying that it is time for the book to be made available to all online.
A variety of restrictions or special circumstances apply in other countries.
In 1934, the French government unofficially sponsored the publication of an unauthorized translation. It was meant as a warning and included a critical introduction by Marshal Lyautey ("Every Frenchman must read this book"). It was published by far-right publisher Fernand Sorlot in an agreement with the activists of LICRA who bought 5000 copies to be offered to "influential people"; however, most of them treated the book as a casual gift and did not read it. The Nazi regime unsuccessfully tried to have it forbidden. Hitler, as the author, and Eher-Verlag, his German publisher, had to sue for copyright infringement in the Commercial Court of France. Hitler's lawsuit succeeded in having all copies seized, the print broken up, and having an injunction against booksellers offering any copies. However, a large quantity of books had already been shipped and stayed available undercover by Sorlot.
In 1938, Hitler licensed for France an authorized edition by Fayard, translated by François Dauture and Georges Blond, lacking the threatening tone against France of the original. The French edition was 347 pages long, while the original title was 687 pages, and it was titled Ma doctrine ("My doctrine").
After the war, Fernand Sorlot re-edited, re-issued, and continue to sell the work, without permission from the state of Bavaria on which the author's rights had defaulted.
In the 1970s, the rise of the extreme right in France along with the growing of Holocaust denial works, placed the Mein Kampf under judicial watch and in 1978, LICRA entered a complaint in the courts against the publisher for inciting antisemitism. Sorlot received a "substantial fine" but the court also granted him the right to continue publishing the work, provided certain warnings and qualifiers accompany the text.
A new edition was published in 2017 by Fayard, now part of the Groupe Hachette, with a critical introduction, just as the edition published in 2018 in Germany by the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, the Institute of Contemporary History based in Munich.
On 5 May 1995 a translation of Mein Kampf released by a small Latvian publishing house Vizītkarte began appearing in bookstores, provoking a reaction from Latvian authorities, who confiscated the approximately 2,000 copies that had made their way to the bookstores and charged director of the publishing house Pēteris Lauva with offences under anti-racism law. Currently the publication of Mein Kampf is forbidden in Latvia.[additional citation(s) needed]
In April 2018 a number of Russian-language news sites (, Zvezda, Sputnik, Komsomolskaya Pravda and Komprava among others) reported that Adolf Hitler had allegedly become more popular in Latvia than Harry Potter, referring to a Latvian online book trading platform ibook.lv, where Mein Kampf had appeared at the No. 1 position in "The Most Current Books in 7 Days" list.
In research done by Polygraph.info who called the claim "false", ibook.lv was only the 878th most popular website and 149th most popular shopping site in Latvia at the time, according to Alexa Internet. In addition to that, the website only had 4 copies on sale by individual users and no users wishing to purchase the book. Owner of ibook.lv pointed out that the book list is not based on actual deals, but rather page views, of which 70% in the case of Mein Kampf had come from anonymous and unregistered users she believed could be fake users. Ambassador of Latvia to the Russian Federation Māris Riekstiņš responded to the story by tweeting "everyone, who wishes to know what books are actually bought and read in Latvia, are advised to address the largest book stores @JanisRoze; @valtersunrapa; @zvaigzneabc". BBC also acknowledged the story was fake news, adding that in the last three years Mein Kampf had been requested for borrowing for only 139 times across all libraries in Latvia, in comparison with around 25,000 requests for books about Harry Potter.
In the Netherlands the sale of Mein Kampf had been forbidden since World War II. In September 2018, however, Dutch publisher Prometheus officially released an academic edition of the 2016 German translation with comprehensive introductions and annotations by Dutch historians. It marks the first time the book is widely available to the general public in the Netherlands since World War II.
In the Russian Federation, Mein Kampf has been published at least three times since 1992; the Russian text is also available on websites. In 2006 the Public Chamber of Russia proposed banning the book. In 2009 St. Petersburg's branch of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs requested to remove an annotated and hyper-linked Russian translation of the book from a historiography website. On 13 April 2010, it was announced that Mein Kampf is outlawed on grounds of extremism promotion.
Mein Kampf has been reprinted several times since 1945; in 1970, 1992, 2002 and 2010. In 1992 the Government of Bavaria tried to stop the publication of the book, and the case went to the Supreme Court of Sweden which ruled in favour of the publisher, stating that the book is protected by copyright, but that the copyright holder is unidentified (and not the State of Bavaria) and that the original Swedish publisher from 1934 had gone out of business. It therefore refused the Government of Bavaria's claim. The only translation changes came in the 1970 edition, but they were only linguistic, based on a new Swedish standard.
Mein Kampf was widely available and growing in popularity in Turkey, even to the point where it became a bestseller, selling up to 100,000 copies in just two months in 2005. Analysts and commentators believe the popularity of the book to be related to a rise in nationalism and anti-U.S. sentiment. A columnist in Shalom stated this was a result of "what is happening in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian problem and the war in Iraq." Doğu Ergil, a political scientist at Ankara University, said both far-right ultranationalists and extremist Islamists had found common ground - "not on a common agenda for the future, but on their anxieties, fears and hate".
In the United States, Mein Kampf can be found at many community libraries and can be bought, sold and traded in bookshops. The U.S. government seized the copyright in September 1942 during the Second World War under the Trading with the Enemy Act and in 1979, Houghton Mifflin, the U.S. publisher of the book, bought the rights from the government pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 0.47. More than 15,000 copies are sold a year. In 2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt reported that it was having difficulty finding a charity that would accept profits from the sales of its version of Mein Kampf, which it had promised to donate.
In 1999, the Simon Wiesenthal Center documented that the book was available in Germany via major online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. After a public outcry, both companies agreed to stop those sales to addresses in Germany. In March 2020 Amazon banned sales of new and second-hand copies of Mein Kampf, and several other Nazi publications, on its platform. The book remains available on Barnes and Noble's website. It is also available in various languages, including German, at the Internet Archive. One of the first complete English translations was published by James Vincent Murphy in 1939. The Murphy translation of the book is freely available on Project Gutenberg Australia.
2016 republication in Germany
On 3 February 2010, the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich announced plans to republish an annotated version of the text, for educational purposes in schools and universities, in 2015. The book had last been published in Germany in 1945. The IfZ argued that a republication was necessary to get an authoritative annotated edition by the time the copyright ran out, which might open the way for neo-Nazi groups to publish their own versions. The Bavarian Finance Ministry opposed the plan, citing respect for victims of the Holocaust. It stated that permits for reprints would not be issued, at home or abroad. This would also apply to a new annotated edition. There was disagreement about the issue of whether the republished book might be banned as Nazi propaganda. The Bavarian government emphasized that even after expiration of the copyright, "the dissemination of Nazi ideologies will remain prohibited in Germany and is punishable under the penal code". However, the Bavarian Science Minister Wolfgang Heubisch supported a critical edition, stating in 2010 that, "Once Bavaria's copyright expires, there is the danger of charlatans and neo-Nazis appropriating this infamous book for themselves".
On 12 December 2013 the Bavarian government cancelled its financial support for an annotated edition. IfZ, which was preparing the translation, announced that it intended to proceed with publication after the copyright expired. The IfZ scheduled an edition of Mein Kampf for release in 2016.
Richard Verber, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, stated in 2015 that the board trusted the academic and educational value of republishing. "We would, of course, be very wary of any attempt to glorify Hitler or to belittle the Holocaust in any way", Verber declared to The Observer. "But this is not that. I do understand how some Jewish groups could be upset and nervous, but it seems it is being done from a historical point of view and to put it in context".
An annotated edition of Mein Kampf was published in Germany in January 2016 and sold out within hours on Amazon's German site. The book's publication led to public debate in Germany, and divided reactions from Jewish groups, with some supporting, and others opposing, the decision to publish. German officials had previously said they would limit public access to the text amid fears that its republication could stir neo-Nazi sentiment. Some bookstores stated that they would not stock the book. Dussmann, a Berlin bookstore, stated that one copy was available on the shelves in the history section, but that it would not be advertised and more copies would be available only on order. By January 2017, the German annotated edition had sold over 85,000 copies.
After the party's poor showing in the 1928 elections, Hitler believed that the reason for his loss was the public's misunderstanding of his ideas. He then retired to Munich to dictate a sequel to Mein Kampf to expand on its ideas, with more focus on foreign policy.
Only two copies of the 200-page manuscript were originally made, and only one of these was ever made public. The document was neither edited nor published during the Nazi era and remains known as Zweites Buch, or "Second Book". To keep the document strictly secret, in 1935 Hitler ordered that it be placed in a safe in an air raid shelter. It remained there until being discovered by an American officer in 1945.
The authenticity of the document found in 1945 has been verified by Josef Berg, a former employee of the Nazi publishing house Eher Verlag, and Telford Taylor, a former brigadier general of the United States Army Reserve and Chief Counsel at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials.
In 1958, the Zweites Buch was found in the archives of the United States by American historian Gerhard Weinberg. Unable to find an American publisher, Weinberg turned to his mentor – Hans Rothfels at the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, and his associate Martin Broszat – who published Zweites Buch in 1961. A pirated edition was published in English in New York in 1962. The first authoritative English edition was not published until 2003 (Hitler's Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf, ISBN 1-929631-16-2).
- Berlin Without Jews, a dystopian satirical novel about German antisemitism, published in the same year as Mein Kampf
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- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Volume One - A Reckoning, Chapter XII: The First Period of Development of the National Socialist German Workers' Party
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- § 64 Allgemeines, German Copyright Law. The copyright has been relinquished for the Dutch and Swedish editions and some English ones (though not in the U.S., see below).
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Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, Switzerland and Hungary have also all forbidden publication.
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Online versions of Mein Kampf
- 1936 edition (172.-173. printing) in German Fraktur script (71.4 Mb)
- 1943 edition (3.8 MB)
- German version as an audiobook, human-read (27h 17m, 741 Mb)